Meditation. Mindfulness. These are big buzz words these days. And for good reason. People have reported feeling better, more grounded, balanced, whole, a sense of peace and calm, a greater sense of clarity, a deeper understanding of the self and an increased appreciation and empathy for others....and the list goes on. Scientific research has also noted the benefits of meditation and its use in the reduction of anxiety and depression.
There are many wonderful resources available to us online, in books, from spiritual teachers and groups, that provide instruction in meditation and mindfulness practices. It can be daunting to know where to start. So let's start with something simple and straight forward.
1. Adopt a comfortable but upright position. You may choose to sit on a meditation cushion or on a chair. If possible, do not use a back rest, but hold yourself up. If using a chair, keep your feet flat on the floor.
2. Your chin can be just slightly tucked, jaw relaxed and eyes opened, with a soft gaze looking down about 2 or 3 feet ahead. Your shoulders slightly pulled back creating an open heart and a straight, supporting back - relaxed, comfortable but awake. Elbows bent and hands resting gently on your thighs.
3. Breathe normally and simply notice your breath as it comes in and goes out. You do not need to breathe in any special way - just as you are. Your breath may be deep or shallow, fast or slow - simply allow it to be exactly as it is and just notice as your body rises and falls.
4. Thoughts, sounds, sights, smells may pull you away from being with your breath. When this happens, simply notice and return your attention to your breath. We do not need to avoid or push away anything. It is all there. However, we are not indulging any of it. We are simply being with everything as it is and using our breath as a reference point to help keep us in the present moment.
5. Allow yourself to practice in this way for 5 minutes, preferably without moving. Then take a moment to reflect and see what you are experiencing. What do you notice in your body, your mind?
Try this everyday for a week and then increase the 5 minutes to 10 minutes if that seems right for you. Some people find it helpful to choose the same time and place each day as a way to encourage a regular routine. See what works for you and trust your experience to guide you.